Dallas, Oklahoma City Brace for the Worst Tornado Potential of Season Yet
By By Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist.
April 28, 2014, 12:56:09 AM EDT
A multiple-day outbreak of severe thunderstorms, including tornadoes, is set to begin Saturday night. The outbreak is likely to be the worst of the season so far and may end up being one of the top severe weather events for the season.
While the 2014 severe weather season has gotten off to an unusually quiet start, a strong surge in severe weather is forecast for the balance of this weekend.
People will need to keep a close eye on the weather, watch for rapidly changing weather conditions and pay careful attention to severe weather and tornado warnings as they are issued.
Now is the time to review tornado safety measures with your family.
According to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Senior Vice President Mike Smith, "A reason for extra concern this weekend is that tornadoes have been nearly non-existent so far and people tend to forget what they have learned from year to year."
A number of the storms, including ones capable of producing tornadoes, will occur after dark, adding to the danger.
According to AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions Storm Warning Meteorologist Scott Breit, "Large hail and damaging straight-line wind gusts will be the primary threats with the storms early Saturday night, but a few isolated supercell thunderstorms can produce a tornado."
A supercell thunderstorm is a long-lived intense storm that often develops rotation and has an elevated risk of producing tornadoes.
The first storms in the outbreak will erupt Saturday evening along a phenomenon known as a dry line, from parts of western Texas to central Nebraska.
A dry line marks the boundary between desert air to the west and moist Gulf of Mexico air to the east.
The storms late on Saturday are likely to fire between U.S. Route 83 and I-35/U.S. Route 81. Cities that may be hit first by the storms include Abilene, Texas; Clinton, Okla., and Dodge City, Kan.
"South-central Kansas to west-central Oklahoma would be in an elevated risk area for severe weather Saturday evening," Breit said.
The bulk of the energy expected to ignite the storms will not arrive until later Saturday night, but such a setup could allow powerful storms to occur well into the nighttime hours while the storms drift farther east into additional rural locations, and also more populated areas.
The surviving storms from dusk on Saturday may drift toward the cities of Omaha, Neb.; Wichita, Kan.; Oklahoma City; and Dallas later at night.
Thousands of people will be converging on Oklahoma City this weekend for the annual Memorial Marathon. While the worst of the storms may shift to the east of the city by race time on Sunday morning, officials are taking no chances with the severe weather and have a system of alert flags set up throughout the course.
Sunday and Sunday night have the potential to be the worst 24-hour period of the outbreak.
According to Severe Weather Expert Henry Margusity, "Not only will the storms have moved into a warm and moist environment, but they will also develop in areas where there is a higher rural population and a greater concentration of towns and large cities."
According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, the setup on Sunday has the potential to bring storms with very large hail and strong tornadoes that could carry on into the nighttime hours.
Major cities at risk for violent storms, downed trees and power disruptions on Sunday include Kansas City, Mo.; St. Louis; Little Rock, Ark.; Memphis; Tulsa, Okla.; and Dallas.
The risk to lives and property, as well as travel disruptions, will continue well into next week as the parent storm system moves very slowly eastward.
Severe thunderstorms are possible on Monday and Tuesday centered over the lower Mississippi, Tennessee and lower Ohio valleys.
Later next week, there may be strong to locally severe thunderstorms with gusty winds, hail and frequent lightning strikes reaching into more of the Midwest, areas farther to the east in the South and even into the mid-Atlantic.
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